March 1, 2006
EAST MEADOW, NY - This weekend the Yale men's swimming and diving team will compete in the 2006 EISL Championships hosted by Columbia and the Ivy League at the Nassau County Aquatic Center. The Bulldogs are looking to improve on last year's fourth place finish after a strong finish to the dual meet season.
The championship event, which includes all eight Ivy League teams as well as Navy, is by far the most important meet of the year for the Bulldogs. In particular, Yale is looking to avenge losses in dual meets to Columbia and Cornell earlier in the season.
All season long, Yale's most dominant individual swimmer has been freshman Alex Righi. The talk surrounding the Arizona native spread even before he arrived on campus last fall, when he was voted the Male High School Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World Magazine in July 2005.
Righi already has one Yale record to his name in the 100-yard backstroke. He broke the record at the H-Y-P meet in early February with a time of 48.85. The time also qualified him for the NCAA 'B' standard in the event. But if Righi wants to add an EISL victory to his impressive list of accolades, he will have to beat Harvard senior David Cromwell, who is seeded first in the event, thanks to his formidable time of 47.90 this season.
Righi is also looking for victory in his other two individual events. He is seeded second in the 100-yard freestyle and fourth in the 50-yard freestyle. Righi has threatened to break the Yale record in both events this season, so fans will want to keep a close eye on the record books this weekend.
The other Yale record that fell this season was the 3-meter diving record over six dives. Jeffrey Lichtenstein broke the record back in January in a Yale victory over Dartmouth and Penn with a score of 344.75. Lichtenstein is one of the favorites this weekend in both the 1-meter and 3-meter diving events. He is seeded second in both events behind Navy's Kevin Teague, who was named Outstanding Diver of the meet at the 2005 championship.
But Lichtenstein is only part of the story. Fellow sophomores Doug Scott and Pat Hayden form the other two parts of the new triumvirate in Yale diving. The three were recruited together by coach Frank Keefe, and with all three seeded among the top six in both diving events this weekend, they have the opportunity to put up big points for the Bulldogs.
Given the scoring system used for the championship meet, Yale won't be focusing too much on coming in first or second overall in different events. Instead, the championship system rewards depth. The depth displayed by this year's Yale squad will be crucial in what could be a hard-fought battle with favorites Harvard and Princeton.
One athlete hoping to go deep this weekend will be freshman Dennen McCloskey. McCloskey is seeded in the top 10 in both the 200-yard backstroke and the 400-yard individual medley, and seeded thirteenth in the 1000-yard freestyle. In the 1000-yard freestyle, McCloskey will be joined by distance specialist Kent Garber, whose strongest event is the 1650-yard freestyle. Garber is looking to improve on his tenth and fifteenth place finishes over 1000 yards and 1650 yards respectively in 2005.
Garber is one member of a deep junior class whose meet experience will be invaluable this weekend. Other weapons in the class of 2007 include Andrew Foss, seeded fifth in the 500-yard freestyle, butterfly swimmer Ben Dzialo and Geof Zann, who is seeded in the top 10 in both backstroke events.
But there may not be any two Yale swimmers as excited about the championship meet as fellow seniors Kieran Locke and team captain Brendan Everman. Both will be sporting Yale blue for the last time this weekend, and will be honored in a senior recognition ceremony before the Saturday finals.
One difference between this Yale squad and last year's is the way the Bulldogs have been tapering their training. Instead of training for each specific dual meet separately, Coach Keefe has implemented a training schedule specifically focused on this weekend's EISL Championship, giving the Bulldogs an extended rest period in recent weeks. As a result, Yale's swimmers and divers will be tapered, shaved and raring to get off the blocks and end the season on a high note this weekend.
Competition begins Thursday at 11 am. For directions to the Nassau County Aquatic Center, race schedules and results, visit the Columbia Athletics wesbite.
Report filed by Jamie Cordes '07, Yale Sports Publicity